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Tsunami Follow-up: Inspiring Story of Rebuilding and Healing

"This Tsunami has created an unprecedented opportunity for people to step into their magnificence on a global scale. Millions are being magnificent..."
  -- Bill Francis, 1/20/05

April 26, 2005
Dear friends,

Below is an incredibly inspiring story of healing and rebuilding in the wake of last December's devastating tsunami. Those who have subscribed since early January will remember the moving story of my inspiring friend Bill Francis, who was traveling in Thailand when the tsunami struck. Bill dropped everything to dedicate himself first to the emergency relief effort, where he coordinated a team of over 300 foreigner volunteers. Then, he set out to the arduous task of repairing or replacing the damaged and destroyed fishing boats of several villages on the Thai coast.

Today I received an email from Bill that the work is completed. Thanks to over $60,000 in donations from you and many others around the world (US dollars go a long way in Thailand), Bill and his team successfully repaired or replaced 130 boats in eight villages. Some of these oceanside villages relied heavily on their fishing boats for their livelihood. Bill and friends made a huge difference in these people's lives. For some colorful photos of this most amazing accomplishment, see the link below. May we all step up to our own magnificence not only in times of disaster, but as often as we can. Take care and have a great day and week ahead!

With best wishes,
Fred Burks
for - Text - Amazing photos

Hi everyone,

With a sigh, here is the final Fishing Boats report, quite long and worth the read. I thank each of you and the dear people of Ko Lanta and Ko Por from my heart for allowing me to serve you. And I bless the Spirit that drew us all together. As always, the text is written below and will soon be posted on our website:


William the Seeker

Whoever forgives first, wins.


Sunday, April 17, 2005

Hi everyone, you'd think I'd be thrilled to write these words,

We did it!

And we really did. Yet I've spent over a week hiding from my computer. It tripped me this morning, hijacked my fingers and I'm typing.

I don't want us to be done on Ko Lanta, yet we are.

We succeeded beyond, way beyond our original goals. Remember the vision? Bring on a wave of human kindness and light bright enough to wash away the dark terror of December 26th 2004. Well, I wish you could see their faces, my friends, family, benefactors, contributors, prayer partners, supporters and angels. Men cried in gratitude. Stoic seafaring men hugged me openly in public. One man kept pointing to the sky.

130 - One Hundred Thirty Boats

We repaired, and/or replaced 130 boats. Cin's survey discovered 92. As our reputation spread and trust grew, so did the numbers. We were action, not just noisy wind. There was plenty of that, still is. Some people spell wind: g o v e r n m e n t.

God Bless you Cin, Mai, Pui, Mr. Pop, Mr. Virat, Mr. Sak and Mr. Schem, Mr. Wut, P Ah and our webmaster in America, Dave Dewey. How do I thank you? I cannot – your selfless diligence, loving labor, and the restored lives of hundreds thank you beyond anything I can say. I'm amazed at what you all, but particularly Mai, endured and never gave up. Wow.

Locals said we helped 10,000 people! While that's a wild exaggeration (there aren't that many people here), you get the idea. 2000 comes closer – but that's not important. The whole point is we helped restore individual lives and families, not numbers. Somehow we aided everyone who asked, and many who didn't.

Here are some numbers for those who like them:





Nai Rai




Klong Dao




KO Por




Pra Ae




Klong Jak




Klong Kong








Old Town








We bought 13 brand new engines, a number of used engines, power tools, a bunch of "long tails", a couple of gas tanks, and a whopping 150,000 baht worth of fishing nets. We repaired a Spirit House and gave a little cash to two very poor hungry families.

Ours is an international miracle when I think about it. We're from the United States, Canada, Mexico, Spain, France, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Romania, and Australia! Our combined donation was $62,162.92 U.S. dollars. That's 2,374,596 Thai Baht. I remain humbled and thankful for the trust you placed in me. Do you realize this would not have happened without your personal contribution? I do.

Thank you.

One kind soul from Europe allowed me to use some of her funds to cover living expenses for Cin, Mai and myself. I am deeply grateful. You know who you are, thank you.

We spent an average of about $478.18 per boat. That's misleading, as we spent $11,000 on engines alone. The big ones cost almost $1000.00 each. Many boats required only minor repairs. Some new ones went for 50,000 baht (roughly $1300.00) each. Several used boats and engines also topped 50,000. And 150,000 baht (almost $4,000) went to buy fishing nets.

Our vision – to restore lives and livelihoods, went from abstract thought to physical reality. I'm proud of our joint venture and of everyone here and at home. I knew you were magnificent.

Although we faced many tough challenges: cultural, linguistic, emotional, physical, and spiritual, we made it. It's been the hardest and most gratifying work of my life, second only to raising my family. Do you know the phrase: "somebody" should do something? Or the universal "they"? Well for one time in my life (so far), I and my little team were that "somebody" We were that "they". And we did something.

I am painfully aware that in terms of the vast devastation across the region, our effort is small. But to the over 2000 people we touched, nothing about it was small. We made a difference.

And please don't send any more money, (unless someone would like to help me replace my "lost" camera. I really miss it. It was lost during the mission, by a friend as best I can discern, and not stolen). $167.17 remains in the boat fund. Unless someone objects, I'll donate it to Project Trang which is still helping people with food and water.

So, please accept my humble gratitude and extend my thanks to everyone you know who prayed, wished, sent a donation, and helped in any way to make this all possible. A special thank you to the school children in Canada and Connecticut; bless you.

Below are a few stories you may enjoy and one you won't.


What a joy! I went early one morning to Klong Dao and there, already hard at work was Mr. Lee Sah, happily building his new little boat. A Muslim, he'd worked tirelessly for two months helping fix others boats. Finally toward the end, he let his secret out. His little boat had been destroyed, could Bill help? He had not said a word for two months. Same for Mr. Moot, another quiet Muslim helping the non Muslim Sea Gypsies. They simply asked for wood – they'd do their own labor. They both built new boats, small ones, exactly what they wanted. We bought them new engines too.

Broken Promise Restored

Then there's Mr. Virat and Mr. Somchai. Neither man appeared on our lists for aid. Others had promised money for brand new boats, so they didn't ask us. They ordered new boats. Well, 'others' broke their promise; no money. Neither came directly to me. These were two of the quietest men I met. I don't think I ever heard them say a word. A village headman intervened. I almost didn't help. This was towards the end and by this time I'd had my fill of changing numbers. I'd told the headmen, 'Okay, you tell me exactly who still needs boats, motors, longtails, whatever – today. After today, nothing changes!' Fortunately, they knew my heart better than I did. After a little fussing and complaining on my part, I agreed. I'm so glad too. It was a good choice. They're good men. By the way, they got new engines too.

No Debt

Mr. Somkit and Mr. Sompoon of Klong Kong didn't ask either. They searched for and bought, on credit, bruised and battered second hand things, almost wrecks themselves. They never told me. The headman spoke up for them. I saw what they bought, once again realizing how important our mission was. These proud men were doing, not waiting. Your money paid the creditors and restored these vessels to sea worthy condition. They're back at sea today thanks to you. And neither is in debt.

The stories go on and on. Some heartfelt, some made me want to quit. I'll give you one of those for balance.

The "Friend"

Most of the broken ones were fixed or being fixed. So I spread the word. It's time to start buying boats. The next day Faa called. Her friend found some boats in Krabi, about 1 � - 2 hours away. Off we went, me, a headman, Faa, the "friend" who found them and a driver. Strangely, we stopped at a gas station, supposedly for the toilet, but picked up one more man.

I neither speak Thai nor understand the culture yet, and depend on others to an extraordinary degree. But I do have intuition. When we picked up this man, something felt wrong.

During price negotiations Faa tried to work on my behalf. The "friend" and the other fellow told her to shut up. This is Thailand and she's a woman, but no wimp. She told them off and did her best. To Faa helping was more important than how they treated her. Had I known, I'd have bought nothing.

I'll spare the details of the 9 hour adventure except to say there were so many boats we asked the fishermen to bring them all for viewing on March 6th. They agreed.

On the way back Faa pretended to sleep in the van. She figured the rascals would expose their plan if they thought she was asleep and knew I didn't understand them. She was right. Our two opportunists revealed they had demanded the fishermen up their prices so each of them could take a fat commission and planned to come back on March 4th to do the same with every fisherman bringing a boat for sale. I sat in the van wary, but completely ignorant of the conversation going on around me.

Much later, as we waited for the ferry, all the others got out for a smoke. In hushed tones, Faa quickly recounted her tale and told me details. I saw her deep anger, shame and fear. She and her husband fed this out of work "friend" every day at their table. She was very afraid. There's a lot I don't know about Thailand. She explained her idea for March 6th was to stop me from buying any more boats today. She knew I was getting cheated but couldn't say anything out loud. I'm deeply grateful for her courage, loyalty and ingenuity.

I'd promised to buy two boats that day and even paid a deposit, so I kept my word. One Ko Lanta and one Ko Por fisherman have used boats.

But the price, oh my, the price, and I'm not talking about money. It still hurts as I write this. My dear friend Dave Dewey, our Webmaster, said I changed that day. He's right. My dad said I should have expected that. I didn't, and it hurt deeply.

We didn't go back March 6th. Eventually we went back, unannounced, but it didn't work out. We didn't buy any more boats there. That's okay.

The Fisherwoman & the Reluctant Angel

I dealt with fisher-men. That is until I met Ms Yan Butmeen, a middle aged woman. She was Muslim and a fisherwoman – rare from my limited experience. Why? I didn't ask; it's impolite here. I suspect she's a widow. She didn't ask for much, just what she needed. She also searched far and wide and discovered a little boat many islands away. We drove over an hour, and then rode a longtail to two islands before reaching her boat. The owner didn't want to sell. But from the laughter and bits of English I gathered the peer pressure from the village was too hot to handle. He reluctantly, but with a good nature, sold it along with a small engine. Being low tide, we actually had to pick it up and carry it hundreds of yards to the sea. It's amazing how people just appeared from nowhere to carry it. It was quite a joy to see her and Mai riding across the bay toward her new start in life.

Stories abound; a boatload full, pardon the pun. These few give you a glimpse into both the deeply humble, hard working Sea Gypsies whom I love, and the dark side too. If you'd like more, let me know. I'm happy to relate them.

Thank you for sharing this adventure with me, the team, and the people of Ko Lanta and Ko Por.

In loving service,
Bill Francis

For another harrowing, inspiring tsunami story from the friend of a close friend of mine:

For an article on a military weapon which creates deadly tsunami's in New Zealand's top newspaper:

For a couple videos of the tsunami as it hit (Windows media player required - free download): - one minute -10 minute video tribute

See our collection of inspirational resources at

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